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Japan’s Evolving Partnerships with International Organizations in the Education Sector: A Retrospective Review from 1950s–2000s

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Japan’s International Cooperation in Education

Abstract

This chapter provides a retrospective overview and analysis of Japan’s funding assistance for education channeled through international organizations, mainly through UNESCO, UNICEF, and multilateral financial institutions. A large proportion of Japanese official development assistance (ODA) has been delivered through international organizations, reaching approximately 40% of the total Japanese ODA budget at its peak in 2012. The chapter first discusses four rationales gleaned from policy documents that frame Japan’s engagement with international organizations. It then elucidates the international and domestic factors that have affected partnerships over the past 70 years based on four broad periods of change: 1) nascent engagement (1950s–early 1970s), 2) partnership diversification (mid-1970s–1980s), 3) response to the global agenda (1990s–early 2000s), and 4) soul-searching (since mid-2000s). This study has identified that, at the early stage of partnerships, international organizations’ political neutrality and expertise were great assets for Japan in its cooperation efforts. Alongside Japan’s aid expansion which began in the 1980s, the motivations for partnerships have been geared toward alignment with international aid priorities and aid architecture while also mainstreaming Japan’s agenda into the global aid community in order to enhance its leadership role. Moving forward, Japanese education assistance needs to clearly define its objectives and strategies in partnering with international organizations.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Based on calculations made by the author using publically available data, the average ratio was approximately 30% between 1980 and 2015.

  2. 2.

    The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture (MOE) was renamed the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in 2001.

  3. 3.

    Interviews were conducted with former and current international organization staff and government ministry officers between November 2017 and January 2018. All interviewees hold or held high-level posts responsible for policy development at their respective organizations/ministries. Some of the interviewees have held such posts in both international organizations and government ministries.

  4. 4.

    In the context of this chapter, partnerships and collaborations with international organizations are understood broadly at three levels: (1) individual project level, (2) program and sector-wide level, and (3) initiative, strategy and policy levels (Yoshida, 2008). Our analysis focuses on partnerships with international organizations that receive Japan’s financial contributions in light of this broader definition.

  5. 5.

    Tied aid is aid offered on the condition that it be used to purchase goods and services from the aid provider (OECD, n.d.).

  6. 6.

    Japan’s official development assistance (ODA) was called “economic cooperation” at that time.

  7. 7.

    A similar statement on education support for conflict-affected countries also appears in the 2015 education policy document (GoJ, 2015a).

  8. 8.

    Opinion polls conducted by the Japan Cabinet Office showed that the percentage of the population with a positive attitude toward ODA declined from 43.2% in 1990 to 19% in 2003, while those who supported an ODA budget reduction increased from 10.7% to 25.5%. Approximately 35% felt that ODA is not effective enough (Sunaga, 2004). For details on how the domestic environment has influenced ODA policymaking, refer to Shimomura (2016) and Sunaga (2004).

  9. 9.

    The Colombo Plan was an intergovernmental regional organization established to strengthen economic and social development among the countries in the Asia-Pacific in 1950. Japan joined in 1954 (MOFA, 2004).

  10. 10.

    Presently the National Education Institute for Educational Policy Research

  11. 11.

    Refer to Chiba (1997); ACCU (2001) and other materials.

  12. 12.

    The report was titled “International Exchanges on Education, Science and Culture” and was published in 1974 by the MOE’s Central Council for Education (CCE). The Council was established at MOE in 1952 to advise the Minister of Education on policies at the request of the Minister.

  13. 13.

    While the World Bank loans allocated to primary education accounted for only 10% of total disbursements in the 1970s, the share grew to nearly 25% in the late 1980s and over 35% in the 1990s (Saito, 2001, p. 125).

  14. 14.

    Many who completed this scholarship program are pursuing a career in policy development. Of the total 631 recipients of the scholarship (1993–2017), 54% now work at central banks and 21% have a job in finance ministries or tax authorities in their home countries (International Monetary Fund, 2017). According to the MOF data (2017), as of FY2016, 659 scholarship recipients have completed the program and 56 hold high-level government positions (deputy director-general or higher).

  15. 15.

    A JICA report titled “Study on Development Assistance for Development and Education” was published in 1994. One of its major recommendations was to give “the highest priority” to basic education (p. 39).

  16. 16.

    Interview with a former UNICEF official (conducted on Nov. 13, 2017)

  17. 17.

    Interview with a former UNICEF senior official (conducted on Nov. 27, 2017)

  18. 18.

    Interview with a former UNESCO senior official (conducted on Dec. 22, 2017)

  19. 19.

    Established in 1955. Contributions from the Committee to UNICEF made in 2016 totaled 14.4 billion yen (Japan Committee for UNICEF, 2016).

  20. 20.

    Supplementary budgets, or additional contributions to address urgent and unpredictable situations, saw a particular increase for UNICEF. According to the authors’ calculations, there were 184 projects (multi-sector projects involving education) applying the supplementary budgets from 2008 to 2015, on which a total of US$784 million was spent.

  21. 21.

    Interview with a UNICEF senior official (conducted on Dec. 19, 2017)

  22. 22.

    Interviews #1, 2, 4.

  23. 23.

    Since 1974, a total of ten Japanese funds-in-trust related to education sector have been established by MEXT, despite some funds being abolished and/or merged along the way (as of June 2020).

  24. 24.

    Interview with a former ADB senior official (conducted on Jan. 16, 2018)

  25. 25.

    Calculated by the authors based on publically available reports

  26. 26.

    In addition to Interview #3, we conducted interviews with two former UNESCO high-level senior officials (on Dec. 18, 2017 and Jan. 9, 2018) and one former MEXT high-level senior official (on Dec. 8, 2017).

  27. 27.

    Interview #2

  28. 28.

    Interview #3

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Arakawa, N., Kitamura, Y. (2022). Japan’s Evolving Partnerships with International Organizations in the Education Sector: A Retrospective Review from 1950s–2000s. In: Kayashima, N., Kuroda, K., Kitamura, Y. (eds) Japan’s International Cooperation in Education. Education in the Asia-Pacific Region: Issues, Concerns and Prospects, vol 63. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-6815-9_11

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